Monday, 18 September 2017

I know we are somewhere...

Well what a fun weekend I'm just recovering from... The weather looked the best in the SW so a plan was hatched to meet Ben in Inveraray on Friday night. It was quite a long drive, but half way between the Lakes and Inverness.

The drive over gave hope of the great adventure to follow
Inveraray seemed a very posh Scottish hamlet as I skipped in and met Ben in 'The George' where I had a rather nice sticky toffee pudding amongst the local high brow or city slickers - who knows, probably a mix of both.

We pushed on late into the night heading South towards Achnamara at the top of knapdale. After trying to sleep in a forest but getting moved on late at night by two very friendly locals out with guns and beer in their 4x4 on a fox hunt we had to back track and slept in the car park of the Scottish Beaver trail (Beaver reintroduction area)!!!

Beaver time
Van life...
Saturday was very busy.... early start and Creag nam Fitheach (crag of the Raven), a nice crag in this remote spot. The crag approach was entertaining, an easy track to a point where the crag was very close, but this final bushwhack was torturous through trees, bracken and over a crazy rock field.... at some point Ben declared 'I know we are somewhere..'.  If I ever visited again I would take a machete or go before or after bracken (or ice age)... The midges were terrible and I nearly ran away, but we did 3 rather good routes before the forecast rain arrived on cue at lunchtime. We quickly escaped and headed East holding a planning meeting at the Green Welly Stop, Tyndrum.

So close... and yet tortuous to actually get to the crag!
We are somewhere!

Midgetastic belay

Compact but great routes
The weather forecast was spot on and started to really brighten into the afternoon so we headed to Creag Na H-Iolaire (Eagle Crag) in Glen Lednock and did another 3 great routes, including a rather fine powerful HVS called Sultans of Swing! We were both reasonably tired by now with all of the travel so just got fish and chips in Comrie, parked the van in the forest near town and had beers and 'man' chat (with no touching!)!

Eagle Crag

Ben stretching out
Sunday dawned bright and clear and we headed the short distance to Dunkeld, another scenic Scottish village/town. On Loz's recommendation we climbed at Craig A Barns. Wow, a great crag set in a very scenic location. Today it was sunny with no midges and we both really enjoyed the 4 routes that we climbed here. They were all brilliant but maybe the highlight was 'The End' a great VS 5a, 4c. The crag and climbing was very reminiscent of climbing at Tremadog in N Wales.

Photo doesn't do it justice, the fantastic Craig A Barns
A great weekend of dirt bagging in the van, hanging out and climbing  a wee bit!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Stac Pollaidh climbing...

So after the 'easy' day yesterday I headed out west with Martin to climb on Stac Pollaidh. As we drove west I got a little worried about two things, Martin mentioning climbing some E4's..... and the lack of wind and possible midge-geddon.

There she blows
At the carpark the midges were very bad, but as we walked in to the crag there was a little breeze which mainly kept them at bay. The walk in reminded me of Gimmer in the Lakes, about an hour up hill.

Looking for the bat route!

Luckily we didn't have to climb any E4's on this trip but climbed the brilliant November Grooves (VS), which was roughly 100m of great climbing even though the pictures from one pitch makes it look very vegetated. There was lots of bridging and a few muscular moves.

The second 100m route we did, 'Release the Bats' was also great. The same grade at VS, but much easier. It went over a few gendarmes, and we caught up and nearly overtook a party who had got stuck ropes and been on the route all day (it only took us 1 hour!)!

bridge to freedom
The second to last pitch was great, popping out onto a rounded gendarme, following the ridge, before having to carefully down climb off the far end using just friction, and no gear on the whole pitch really... great fun.

A fine setting
My legs were spent the day after, but definitely worth it and I really want to go back for 'Jack the Ripper, a classic E1.

Friday, 1 September 2017

The first day of Autumn brings sunshine

With a day off and great weather forecast I headed to the Cairngorms to take my bike for a walk. I've been saving this particular hill for a few years as I wanted to ride it on my mt bike in good weather.

Today it came together. I had an entertaining drive down, picking up an interesting hitchhiker en-route. He informed me that he was heading to Edinburgh to sow his seeds! Well I dropped in at Aviemore and wished him well on that quest!

While I'm here I'll just nip up this one too
Parking at the end of the road down Glen Feshie it was fairly midgy getting sorted to start, sunny and not a breath of wind. The initial trails heading South tracking the river are just fantastic fun to ride.

Mellow sections of the track

It wasn't long before I got to the junction and swung a left starting the climb up the landrover track that would eventually lead to the munro Mullach Clach A' Bhlair.

The summit
There was a fair amount of pushing up the track but it was worth it with amazing views. I probably rode 50% of the track. I got distracted part way up with another lush looking single track that went up  a separate lower peak so detoured to this.

The top was very flat as expected with great 360 degree views.... What goes up must come down and the descent was a blast dropping about 2000 feet in one go on a loose track - wow, I nearly boiled my brakes and they were glowing when I got back down to the strath (valley).

I had a quick paddle in the river before blasting the single track back to the van, a very satisfying ride, definitely worth doing on a mt bike.

Cool off!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

All about the fungi....

I feel the start of a change of the season this week... I've been out twice on the mountain bike in the local forests and as well as being great fun out on the trails the Autumn fungi is appearing and (sadly) the nights are starting to draw in up here (boo).

Sunday, 13 August 2017

In the shadow of Arthur Dolphin

It was under very sad circumstances that we headed South to England this last weekend to attend the funeral of Liz, a vibrant and amazing Yorkshire lass who sadly passed away at age 39. Her funeral was extremely emotive and poignant to the hundreds of people in attendance. She will not be forgotten that is for sure.

In the evening I headed over to the Lakes to stay with Shaw and Judith and after curry, beer, wine and a few whisky's a plan was hatched to head over to Yorkshire the following morning to get some climbing in.

The weather looked better in the East, but the decision was also partly formed because Shaw is seeking out Arthur Dolphin routes to climb, and has signed up to the complete Arthur Dolphin ticklish on UKC.

Ilkley Cow and Calf
Dolphin was born in 1925, sadly dying in the Alpes in 1953 aged 28. I didn't know much about him and what he accomplished in his short life, but I was aware that he completed the first ascent of Kipling Groove on Gimmer Crag, in my opinion the finest HVS there is (and I've climbed a few!).

Protest table (back left) and wedding party!

BBQ time
With a sore head we arrived at Ilkley, which was very busy, with a constant audience for the climbers,  a wedding party appeared in sports cars for wedding photo's, there was a anti bloodsports protest.... and at one point we joined a group of men from Bradford for a BBQ on top of the crag - quite a circus!

Being a Derbyshire lad I wasn't sure how these grit climbs would compare to the Peak, but wow the quality was amazing. As we moved around Ilkley climbing some of the Dolphin routes it quickly became apparent that he was quite an 'ard' climber putting up some fierce routes.

heel hook on Walewska!
Walewska (not a Dolphin route) is probably the best VS single pitch route in the UK that I have ever climbed. The 4 Dolphin routes we did, were also very high quality climbs (and a little green on a couple ;-)   ) with Beeline (HVS) and Somersault (VS) being particularly memorable (battles.....).

Shaw on Beeline - HVS
So now I'm a convert and have signed up to the compete Arthur Dolphin ticklish (probably isn't that sensible living in the highlands of Scotland)... maybe you should too..!?

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Home turf...

Maybe home turf is a misnomer... but I still feel an affinity and great fondness for Derbyshire and the gritstone where I lived my formative years and learnt how to climb a while back (!).

scrunched on High Neb Buttress variant!
Titanic Direct
I met up with Steve and Kev in the Peak District and I had lots of fun mt biking and climbing on the gritstone. We had a fun day finding esoteric climbs at Stanage such as Titanic direct (HVS), Counts Crack (VS), Counts Buttress (desperate), now given E2 5C!!  I (cough) even seemed to make heavy work of High Neb Buttress Variation... but shouldn't admit this - I blame the humid weather and damp rock (second cough!)....


Kev the 'cat', about to pounch...
I also really enjoyed reconnecting with some of the fantastic bouldering at Cratcliffe/Robin Hoods Stride, thanks Kev for your patience with the film work.... who knows if it will ever see the light of day.. but it was fun and great to see you both. Scotland rocks... but I miss the grit too...

Steve on Counts Crack

Saturday, 8 July 2017

A trip to the far North...

Just back from a fun 2 day trip to the far North of Scotland. Highlights were climbing Ben Hope, the most Northerly munro, van camping (and getting midged), seeing some amazing scenery on the North Coast of Scotland, a Cullen Skink stop when it rained and great drive down alongside Loch Shin. So much more to explore....

Deer in wheat field spotted before leaving home


Just starting the slog up Ben Hope

Gaining height (before the cloud)

Looking back at Ben Hope - arrows helpfully show the way!
Moine House old croft

With interesting graffiti ! 

Another stunning road/view area

Ben Loyal :-)